Immunotherapy for Cancer

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that enhances the body’s ability to fight cancer cells by boosting its immune system. Significant research advances have recently raised immunotherapy’s profile as a cancer treatment, and dramatic responses seen in some patients have led many to view this approach as the future of cancer therapeutics. It’s important to note, however, that success rates remain modest, and the approach is still very much a work in progress. Scientists are now working to understand why efficacy varies from patient to patient, and how quality of life and life expectancy can be improved for more patients using this approach.

Read More
biomedicine, healthBecky Hazen
Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon capture and storage (also called carbon capture, carbon sequestration, or CCS) is the process of physically capturing carbon dioxide from flue emissions—the “tailpipes” of fossil-fuel plants—and storing it underground so it never reaches the atmosphere. Heralded by some as a win-win—CCS allows for the continued use of relatively cheap and abundant fossil fuels while mitigating the atmospheric impact of by-product carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. But others vigorously debate the long-term utility of this approach, arguing that it is technically impractical or that it could prolong society’s unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels.

Read More
Wildfire Trends in the United States

In August of 2018, less than a year after the Thomas fire grew to become the largest fire in California’s history, the Mendocino Complex fire broke that record. Recent research has helped clarify the confluence of factors driving the trend toward larger, longer-lasting, more frequent wildfires — including climate change, increased settlement along the wildland-urban interface, the spread of invasive species, and an antiquated “zero-tolerance” fire-management paradigm that reigned for nearly a century and is only now being replaced by more evidence-based strategies.

Read More
environmentBecky Hazen
Attribution Science: Climate Change & Extreme Weather

In recent decades, some kinds of extreme weather events have become more common. Advances in computer processing power and improved methods for sorting out the many factors that contribute to weather are now allowing scientists not only to determine the extent to which climate change contributed to some extreme weather events, but also to say with confidence that certain extreme weather events would not or could not have occurred but for climate change. This is the science of extreme event attribution.

Read More
environmentBecky Hazen
Concussions and Brain Health

Concussions have been in the medical lexicon for thousands of years, but their mechanisms of action and long-term health effects are still poorly understood. There is currently no evidence-based treatment for concussions other than rest and their medical management is largely guided by individual expert opinion, which varies considerably. But an emerging body of systematic research, bolstered by increasingly vocal testimony from athletes and other groups at high risk for concussions, is starting to paint a clearer picture of how these injuries work and their potentially serious, lasting consequences.

Read More
Gene Drives

For many years now, scientists have been able to alter genes inside microbial, plant, and animal cells to change organisms’ traits, creating, for example, plants that produce their own protective insecticides and fish that grow to maturity almost twice as fast as normal. But while it has become practically routine for scientists to genetically alter individual organisms, a new set of advances promises something much more ambitious: the ability to propagate new genetic traits into entire populations over just a few generations. 

Read More
Gravitational Waves

In February 2016, astronomers announced the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves, a phenomenon originally predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago in his theory of general relativity and sought after by physicists and astronomers for nearly 50 years. The discovery not only confirmed a prediction of general relativity but also opened an entirely new window to understanding the universe: the ability to explore the cosmos relying not just on light, but on gravity itself. 

Read More
physical scienceBecky Hazen
Lead in U.S. Drinking Water

Drinking water is tightly regulated in the United States and, for the most part, is remarkably safe. Recent contamination episodes in Flint, Michigan, and elsewhere, however, have highlighted the fragility of this public health success story and the serious health risks lead poses in significant portions of the U.S. drinking water supply. Exposure to lead, even at low levels, has adverse health effects for people – especially children, pregnant women, and their developing fetuses. While these risks are widely known, lead continues to pervade the tap water of many American communities. 

Read More
environment, healthBecky Hazen
Geoengineering

Talk of using “geoengineering” to reduce the risks of climate change is real—and could grow in volume as climate extremes become increasingly disruptive. A set of scientific papers released in November 2017 offered some of the most sophisticated estimates yet of how injections of aerosolized sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere might mitigate some consequences of climate change, while another paper published a few weeks later pointed to potentially problematic weather disruptions that could occur under certain geoengineering scenarios. 

Read More